North Haven Seeks Multi-Year Deer Culling Contract

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North Haven Village is negotiating a possible multi-year contract with a private deer-culling firm.

Three weeks after the North Haven Village Board voted to begin negotiations, the village granted access on Monday to the minutes of its February 4 meeting after at first denying a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to the minutes, Village Mayor Jeffrey Sander was authorized to engage in negotiations with White Buffalo Inc., a Connecticut-based firm whose website claims it has removed more than 9,000 deer from suburban neighborhoods nationwide. The minutes indicate that Mr. Sander hoped to finalize a contract by the end of this month.

“The reason for the cull is to get the level of the herd down to manageable numbers,” Mr. Sander said, according to the minutes. “Recreational hunting has been able to keep pace with the growth but has not achieved any substantial reduction over the last four to five years. Something extraordinary, other than recreational hunting, must be done.”

Last summer, the village’s deer and tick committee recommended several measures to address tick-borne illnesses and deer-related motor vehicle accidents. According to the minutes, Mr. Sander said the primary recommendation was to “reduce the herd as much as we can.”

Although specifics, such as on which properties the cull will take place, are elusive, Mr. Sander confirmed certain aspects of the program on Monday. He said it will involve the use of shotguns to kill more than 100 deer if all goes as planned. He estimates the total population to be about 200 to 250 deer, although some have disputed that number.

Mr. Sander also confirmed that the contract would cost about $15,000 for the first year, although White Buffalo’s website says a cull could cost as much as $400 per deer. In the St. Louis area, White Buffalo reported charged a municipality $54,000 to cull about 125 deer recently.

“I believe [the cull] will be a multi-year program,” Mr. Sander said at the February 4 meeting, according to the minutes. “Whether we have to do further culling … will remain in terms of how successful this program is.” He added that however long the program is maintained, the village will be gathering data on the deer population to measure its effectiveness.

The minutes described other tactics the village intends to use, such as supplementing the cull with contraception programs funded by the 2014-15 budget and putting 4-Poster units throughout the village to control ticks. The 4-Poster units, which cost about $5,000 each and could be paid for with a state grant, spray permethrin on the coats of deer as they feed, poisoning the ticks they carry.

Before the meeting minutes were turned over on Monday, messages left for Mr. Sander at home and on his cellphone over the course of about three weeks went unreturned. Every village trustee contacted, four of the five, either did not come to the phone, return messages or agree to comment on or divulge what had transpired at the meeting.

Village Attorney Anthony Tohill did not respond to messages left at his law offices.

Dr. Anthony DeNicola, co-founder and president of White Buffalo, did not return calls left on his cellphone starting February 7.

One trustee, George Butts, answered his phone once, and said that attaining approval at the state level would not be a problem; deer nuisance permits are in place for North Haven properties. According to Mr. Butts, that means that the village can hire a company for a cull throughout the 2.7-square-mile village without the consent of the affected property owners. “We would only need the permission of the board members,” he said, without offering further details.

Village deer management specialist Al Daniels did not return messages left at his home and at Village Hall seeking further clarification on that point. When asked to discuss the matter on Monday morning at Village Hall, Mr. Daniels walked away and found Mr. Sander.

At that point, Mr. Sander said, “We’ve been advised by our attorney to not talk about any of that, or what happened at the meeting.”

He confirmed that the threat of a lawsuit, which has stopped proposed culls in other municipalities, was what was behind the village’s reluctance to discuss the matter. Mr. Sander also declined to comment on where the contract talks with White Buffalo stood.

Wendy Chamberlin, co-founder of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, which has spearheaded legal opposition to culls proposed in other municipalities, anticipates that her group will bring a lawsuit against the village.

“This is a very typical Tony Tohill response to things,” Ms. Chamberlin said by phone last week, referring to the village attorney. “It is just like, don’t respond, never say anything. This isn’t at all the transparency one would expect from elected officials. We’ve been playing chess with a ghost and going on intuition with the lawsuits.”

Ms. Chamberlin said her group would continue to fight the North Haven plans, however.

“We will file a lawsuit. It wouldn’t be fair for us to allow [Mr. Sander] to go forward with all the people we know that are against this idea,” she said. “… We have to be consistent and fair and follow our ethical tracks. We’re going as fast as possible to file the lawsuit, and I think we’ll stop the cull. I don’t think they’ll ignore a lawsuit.”

As to when the lawsuit will be filed, Jessica Vigars, a lawyer with Young/Sommer LLC, which represents the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, said, “We’re still evaluating the case and trying to get a sense of what is going on, but the trouble is getting info from them. We’re in the process of trying to determine what they did or didn’t do, because our clients are very concerned that the village isn’t acting appropriately.”

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